The Best Way To Make Homemade Caramel

Recipe: Easy Caramel Sauce

Homemade caramel is on one of the most versatile Southern dessert recipes to master. Whether you serve it drizzled over a Salted Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie, spooned warm over homemade ice cream, use as a dipping sauce for crisp apple slices, or eat it by the spoonful, one thing is certain: everything is better with caramel. Although caramel calls for only six simple ingredients: sugar, water, lemon juice, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sea salt there is an art to making the perfect caramel. Three key tricks to master for your caramel sauce are starting with the cleanest pot possible, timing to keep the sugar and butter from burning, and stirring to keep all the ingredients smooth and well combined. First, you’ll bring your sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat with the lid on the pot. This should take about 3 minutes or when the liquid is clear – whichever comes first. Then, you remove the lid keep the pot boiling and swirl the pot to keep anything from sticking for about 4 minutes or until the candy thermometer reaches 345 degrees or 350 degrees and the mixture is a medium to dark amber. Take the pot off the heat and slowly whisk in your cream. Don’t worry that the caramel will bubble and splatter. This is to be expected. Place the pot back on the low heat for one minute constantly whisking it until it is a smooth sauce. Remove it from the heat stir in the vanilla and sea salt. Then transfer to a serving bowl or pitcher and chill. The caramel should keep for one week. Caramel can also make a great hostess gift. If you still have any questions about how to make the perfect caramel sauce, watch our Test Kitchen expert demo her perfect method for making caramel.


Here is the best way to make homemade caramel. First, put your sugar in a large, clean sauce pan. It needs to be clean to ensure the sugar crystals melt without crystallizing. If you want, you can add a little bit of water to evenly distribute the sugar crystals. And while you're at it, a little bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice will prevent crystallization. Keep the sugar on high heat, and don't touch the pot until it begins to take color. For 3/4 of a cup of sugar, it will take about 8 minutes for color to appear at the edges. Gently swirl the pot to evenly distribute the color. And remember, when it starts to turn color, pay close attention because everything from this point happens very quickly. You're looking for it to turn a dark amber color. Or if you're using a candy thermometer, you want it to reach 348 degrees. If you don't have a candy thermometer, one of the best ways to tell if it's ready is to use your nose. When you can smell a sweet, slightly bitter smell, remove the sugar from the heat and immediately stir in your heavy cream with a long-handled wooden spoon. Don't use a metal spoon because it conducts heat, and the sugar is extremely hot. And get ready 'cause it will bubble up like crazy. If you're using butter, stir it in until it's fully incorporated. And that's it. You've got smooth, rich, buttery homemade caramel. For more cooking tips from our test kitchen, check out Southern Living.
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